“I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.'”
— Kurt Vonnegut
Any minute now the door to my sons’ bedroom will swing open and the house will shift from calm to chaos. Showers will be taken. Teeth will be brushed (only after much reminding). Pajamas will be thrown on the floor. Shorts and t-shirts thrown on because – finally! – spring has sprung. Lunches will be packed. Backpacks will be checked. And we will be off in a swirl of “hurry ups” and “we’re going to be lates” – though it’s usually my son reminding my to hurry up because he’s going to be late for his before-school chit-chatting with his friends.
But right now it’s quiet and slow.
Time a funny thing, you know. There are days that stretch out for an eternity and then you look back and wonder where the past few weeks, months, or years went. Were they swallowed up by the frenzy of conference calls and meetings, homework battles and playdates? Were they consumed by doctor appointments and last-minute trips to the grocery store because – surprise! – we’re out of milk again? Were they marked by vacations and ball games and piano recitals?
I am in the midst of reviewing essays for the “middle place” anthology that Julie Jo Severson and I are editing/producing – beautiful and powerful stories – and I can tell you, those of us in this precarious “middle place” are acutely aware of the strange passage of time. Like being in a moving train, the day-to-day things around us don’t seem to be moving quickly at all, but take a look out the window of hindsight, and – holy shit! – are we ever moving fast. We know that it flies by in a blink of an eye. And yet some days are so long and intolerable that we don’t just want to blink, but squeeze our eyes shut tight for awhile.
Lately though, it isn’t just the speed of time moving in a big picture kind of way, but in an everyday way as well. Days slip by without getting done nearly as much as I had hoped. I want to do so much, experience so much. But I also want to sit on my butt and do nothing for a while. There never seems to be enough time in the day to do everything that I need to do, let alone the things that I want to do.
This isn’t a problem unique to me or my generation. And, truthfully, I don’t really have a solution. Because there is no solution. Time will move as time moves – too fast sometimes, too slow at others.
But I’m wondering if maybe there are ways to work with time’s fickle nature. Maybe turning off the outside noise will help. I used to turn off take a “tech shabbos” and turn off my phone and computer one day a week, but lately I’ve let that habit slide a bit. Making tough choices about how to spend our time – saying “no” to some things so that I can say “yes” to others – would certainly help. Maybe we try to let go of the striving for a minute to realize that things are actually pretty freaking good. But most of all, maybe we just need to let time do what time will do, reaching our hands out of the speeding train every once in a while to grab those moments of loveliness when we can.
Yesterday my husband and I took the boys to a Cubs game at Wrigley Field. Our seats were terrific. The day was gorgeous. And we all had a lovely time. At one point, my husband said, “If this isn’t great…” paraphrasing Kurt Vonnegut’s famous quote. I started to correct him and tell him the word was “nice,” not “great,” but he stopped me.
“No, this is great,” he said.
And it really was great. Even if it did go just a little too fast.
This post is part of the weekly Photo Inspiration Challenge with Angie McMonigal Photography. The premise is simple: Angie sends me a couple of photos and I write a blog post based on one of the photos. It is always fascinating to see what words her images bring out of me. Not only have Angie’s photos served as inspiration for several blog posts over the past few years, but they have also inspired certain chapters in Open Boxes and we will soon be publishing a coffee table book of our collaborative work. Stay tuned!